Monday, December 30, 2013

Adirondack Red Wings (AHL, 1986-87)

1986-87 Regular Season--Wings vs. Moncton Golden Flames
     After the 1982-83 season, the Wings hired Bill Dineen as their sixth head coach (seventh if you count Larry Wilson, who died before the first season). Dineen brought something the franchise never had: coaching stability and winning seasons. He remained as head coach through the 1988-89 season, by far the longest any coach lasted in Glens Falls. He guided the Wings to their first winning season in 1983-84, and only had one losing season during his tenure.
     Dineen was joined by returning General Manager Neil Smith, who was only 32 when hired in 1985. The Wings were again the primary affiliate of Detroit and owned by Mike Illitch.
     The previous season was an interesting one for the organization. While Adirondack claimed their second Calder Cup in 1985-86, Detroit suffered through it's worst season in franchise history, winning only 16 games. The defending champs had another excellent season in 1986-87, going 44-31-5, second place in the North Division. Their 93 points were nine behind league-leading Sherbrooke and just one ahead of Moncton, that night's opponent.
     Adirondack's offense was fourth-best in the league, as the Wings scored 329 goals. They were led by veteran forward Glenn Merkosky, who scored 54 goals and 85 points, both tops on the team. Seven other players scored 20 or more goals, and two (Dale Krentz and Chris Cichocki) had over 30.
     The Wings had a strong season on defense, allowing just 296 goals, fifth-best in the AHL. The Wings used five netminders that season. Mark LaForest played in 37 games, with a sparkling 26-8-2 record, a 2.83 GAA and three shutouts. Sam St. Laurent was in for 25 games, going 7-13-2 with a 4.21 GAA with one shutout. Chris Pusey, Randy Hansch and Corrado Micalef were the other Adirondack goalies that season.
     The Wings would face Moncton in the first round and knocked off the Golden Flames in six games. They then ran into the Sherbrooke Canadiens in Round Two, and were smoked in five games, outscored 27-14 in the process. Fans responded to the Wings success, as Adirondack averaged 4,184 per game, third-best in the league that year.
     Of all the Wings programs I have, this is probably the best-looking one. It has 72 pages, mostly in black-and-white, but on glossy paper. Plenty of ads and lots of articles about the AHL and NHL Red Wings. Lots of stats too. That night's Wings roster included Joe Murphy, who was drafted #1 Overall by Detroit that year out of Michigan State. Murphy didn't quite live up to that billing, but did carve out a solid 14-year NHL career, scoring 233 goals. Player/Assistant Coach Barry Melrose would later coach the AHL Wings and in the NHL with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. He would later become an analyst on ESPN and NHL Network, and sport arguably the game's most famous mullet.

AHL Statistics: 1986-87 (from

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